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Climate change action in west Norfolk

Cllr Paul Kunes with one of the electric vans at King's Lynn depot.
Cllr Paul Kunes with one of the electric vans at King's Lynn depot.

Published: Wednesday, 16th November 2022

As the COP27 climate summit draws to a close in Egypt, the borough council is reflecting on a years’ worth of activity to tackle climate change in west Norfolk.

Cllr Paul Kunes, Cabinet member for Environment and CO2 reduction, said:

“Following the council declaration of a climate emergency in 2021 we brought our Council net zero target forward to 2035 from 2050, and we remain committed to reviewing whether we can bring it forward further to 2030. We have created a climate change strategy and action plan to set out our approach to tackling climate change.”

The action plan was split into two phases of work, phase 1 would review the borough council’s own carbon print and phase 2 related to the whole district tackling climate emissions.

Over the last 12 months the borough council has focused on three questions to tackle climate change in west Norfolk:

  1. What can we, the borough council, do?
  2. What can our residents do and how can we encourage them?
  3. What can our businesses do and how can we support them?

What can the borough council do to tackle climate change?

Work is nearly complete on decarbonising borough council-owned buildings. 11 buildings in King’s Lynn, Downham Market and Hunstanton have had solar panels and air or ground source heat pumps installed. It’s projected the sites including Alive West Norfolk venues, the council depot, St Georges Guildhall and King’s Court will achieve savings of 463 tonnes of carbon each year. 

The borough council waste team already operate two LGV sized electric vans. They have a range of around 170 miles and are operated from the Council’s depot. The Community Safety & Neighbourhood Team are now in the process of acquiring the same make & model of vehicle to be used for fly tipping enforcement. The Mayor also uses a hybrid car to travel around the borough.

Work is ongoing to assess the potential for renewable energy generation.

Our waste and recycling collection routes have been reviewed to be made more efficient and environmentally friendly. A meeting has been held with the Energy Saving Trust over completing a fleet review of the 130 vehicles operated by the borough council. The findings will be reported on when the review is complete.

As part of the Active and Clean connectivity project, funded by the Towns Fund, the policy and personnel team have looked in to how our staff can play their part in particular with their commutes to and from work. Other west Norfolk employers will also be invited to play their part with their staff.

Over 6500 trees have been planted across the borough, including in Sedgeford, Lynnsport, King’s Reach and the Walks. The prolonged hot summer has unfortunately resulted in a number of trees requiring replacement, this will be carried out during the next planting season (November 2022 to March 2023).

Our Chief Executive, Lorraine Gore, co-chairs the Norfolk Climate Change Partnership, a group made up of local authorities, New Anglia LEP, Broads Authority and other stakeholders. The main focus has been implementation of a successful Community Renewal Fund bid which has two feasibility studies; a Community Energy project, and a Hydrogen transport project. Work is ongoing to develop an action plan for the partnership.

How can the borough council encourage residents to tackle climate change and what can they do to tackle climate change?

The residents of Sedgeford planted over 400 trees that had been provided by the borough council. Cllr Kunes adds:

“It was wonderful to see over 20 volunteers from the village planting a mixture of hawthorn, field maple and hornbeam trees. The Parish council have agreed to look after the trees until they are established.”

A third of all applicants in the county-wide Solar Together Norfolk scheme live in west Norfolk. Over 2,000 people registered an interest for the group-buying scheme which offers solar panels with optional battery storage and EV charge points.

26 Fast electric vehicle chargers are being installed and will be turned on at the end of November. They will enable residents with no off-street parking access, to charge their EV overnight at nearby council car parks. This scheme will also allow daytime use by visitors, commuters, shoppers, and residents alike.

The current 4 Rapid EV chargers located in Hunstanton, and King’s Lynn will also be replaced with a newer model.

Our beat your bills roadshows held in Downham Market, Hunstanton and King’s Lynn had over 100 members of the public visit for advice about improving energy efficiency in their homes, reducing their winter bills and their carbon footprint.  

Over £100,000 in grants were secured for our residents for modern, efficient and cleaner heating systems. Nearly £30,000 was also secured for emergency funding for boiler repair and improvements.

We have been promoting 'Thinking Fuel' with Community Action Norfolk. Nearly 400 new members have signed up to this county-wide heating oil collective purchasing scheme. The increase means that other oil distributors are looking to get on board with the scheme. As well as cost savings for residents it also means they have access to efficient and cleaner oil boilers where no other heating source is viable.

We continue to promote water saving kits with Anglia Water to help reduce water consumption and costs.

Next year we will continue to work with other Norfolk authorities to develop a strategy and deliver funding for domestic energy efficiency measures and will be supporting a bid for more funding to the Norfolk Warm Homes Team.

How can the borough council support local businesses and what can they do to tackle climate change?

In June the borough council held a business climate change expo at the King’s Lynn Corn Exchange to show how local businesses could reduce their carbon footprint and also share best practise with each other. 

The purpose of the event was to showcase the best Norfolk businesses who are able to support businesses and individuals on their net-zero journey, to inform on decarbonisation measures available to local businesses, and provide advice on how to progress decarbonisation works.

The free to attend event had a total of 75 organisations represented from across Norfolk, from micro to large corporates, including, Aviva, the US Airforce, the MOD and Konectbus.

Good green initiatives that local businesses are using have also been shared through our ongoing sponsorship of the Environmental Champions Award, part of the Lynn News Mayors Business Awards.

Officers have attended the East of England Lowland Agricultural Peat Task Force Sub-Group, which was set up to inform the England Peat Strategy. The group have submitted their draft recommendations to Government, and we await to hear back on progress.

Cllr Kunes said:

“We’ve achieved a lot but there’s more to do. In the coming months we will take this further. For a second year we will highlight local businesses as potential environmental champions and will also be introducing a climate change project to primary schools in west Norfolk to get our young minds considering how they can play their part.

“This is merely the beginning of a road that we must all travel to reduce CO2 emissions in west Norfolk. I thank the officers for their work on this, along with the residents and businesses who have made a change for the better but we can all contribute and do more. I look forward to seeing what we have achieved when COP28 begins.”

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